A healthier workforce: Tips for starting and building your workplace wellness program

Is there chatter around your office about weight loss goals and couch-to-5k training programs?

The new year brings a renewed focus on health and wellness for many of us — probably including your employees. Does your workplace reinforce or counteract your employees’ desire for a healthy lifestyle?

A healthier workplace can motivate employees to make healthier choices for themselves — at work and at home. Workplace wellness efforts can also play a part in reducing chronic disease and injury risks.

Employees who are less fit are more likely to take sick days, develop chronic health issues and get hurt on the job and off. Smoking and obesity can compound health issues, delaying recovery and making workers’ comp claims more expensive.

Offering workplace wellness activities could be the extra motivation an employee needs to get moving.

Wellness programs can reduce costs associated with employer-sponsored health plans, workers’ compensation claims, short- and long-term disability and absenteeism, studies show.

No matter your business size, investing in a workplace wellness program can be extremely valuable. Studies show that well-designed wellness programs have a return on investment of $1.50 to $3 per dollar spent.

Get started on your workplace wellness program

If you’ve been thinking about offering a wellness program, but don’t know where to begin, one tips is to start small.

Encourage employees to take walking and stretching breaks. Bring in an instructor for an office yoga session. Replace the Monday morning doughnuts with fruit. Offer flu shots.

Wellness programs can cover a wide range of issues that affect your employees’ overall well-being. In a survey of SFM policyholders, respondents who already have wellness programs said they address some or all of the following topics:

  • Stress reduction
  • Physical fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Weight management
  • Mental health
  • Smoking cessation
  • Financial wellness

Tailor the wellness offerings to your workplace. Ask your employees for their ideas. As you try new wellness efforts, you’ll learn what works for your employees.

Integrate safety and wellness

Think about encouraging employee health together with safety.

The concept of Total Worker Health, developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), can be your guide. Total Worker Health integrates safety and health programs, with an emphasis on a hazard-free work environment to protect from injuries and illnesses and promote overall worker well-being.

To incorporate Total Worker Health into your workplace, look for opportunities to dovetail wellness programs with your loss prevention efforts. An initiative like SFM’s “get up and move” stretching program can introduce employees to the benefits of frequently moving throughout the day — benefits like reduced frequency and severity of injuries, increased productivity and higher energy.

Promote a culture of health

Research has found that the most successful workplace wellness programs promote a culture of health that permeates all aspects of company life. Showing that you care about and value employee health, safety and well-being will help embed wellness as a way of life.

The Workplace Health Resource Center provided by the CDC offers a searchable database of resources to begin or build on a wellness program. Check with your health insurance provider or employee assistance program on their offerings. Find more wellness articles on SFM’s blog.

Offering workplace wellness activities could be the extra motivation an employee needs to get moving — and keep going after the New Year’s resolution mania fades.

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